Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry emerged unscathed from his hearing Thursday to become the next Energy Secretary, contritely rescinding his pledge to dismantle the agency and reversing course on years of comments dismissing climate change science.
Perry, who had a short-lived run early in the Republican primary for the presidency, sought to reassure senators that he now believed that global warming was at least partially due to manmade causes — a stance echoed by several Trump administration nominees in their hearings — and vowing to maintain the agency’s extensive research operations.
Perry spoke softly to senators who peppered him with questions on topics ranging from nuclear testing to natural gas exports to cybersecurity. But it was his opening statement disavowing his 2011 promise to eliminate the Energy Department — which he also made when he forgot the agency’s name during his famous “oops” incident — that appeared to set the tone for the nearly four-hour hearing.
“My past statements made over five years ago about abolishing the Department of Energy do not reflect my current thinking,” he said. “After being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its elimination.”
That statement appeared aimed at the many energy committee members who fear Perry may slash funding for the agency’s network of 17 national labs and curb DOE’s research into renewable energy and climate change. But it was also a public admission that he had little understanding of some the agency’s core missions: maintaining the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile and the cleanup of old Cold War nuclear sites sprinkled across the country.
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